Effects of COVID-19 in young people’s lives #1 / by Desire Runganga,

Published by SAYWHAT on

The adage “we live in interesting times” has been thrown onto our faces recently more than ever before. Streets are deserted, offices have been vacated, hotels are being converted into temporary health care facilities, schooling has been halted or at least become wholly online and normal life has been shelved for an indefinite period. The coming of the 20th century for the greater majority had converted homes to a mere resting place but change has been inevitable in the sight of the Novel Corona Virus code-named Covid-19.  Nevertheless, our generation may not be exclusively peculiar to be witnesses of such a dreadful era; going through the

ancient scrolls of the 18th century reminds us of the 1918 influenza dubbed the “Spanish Flue” to which the American Institute of Medicine lamented over fifty million people succumbed. Consequently, present-day scientists find themselves obliged to regard the 1918 Influenza as a quasi-experiment to analyze the enemy we face today. Delving deeply into the impacts of the aforementioned pandemic a mere three centuries behind us, we derive an irrefutable fact that young people are definitely going to be subjected to a myriad of effects during and post the Covid-19 contagion.  k

As Covid-19 continues its rage, Gender-Based Violence, GBV against girls and women continues to skyrocket on an irrevocable upward trajectory.  Lockdowns possess a strong

capacity to exacerbate GBV through the disruption of social protective networks and service provision pathways. Confined to their homes every single day of the lockdown, perpetrators tend to quench their thirst to exercise power by abusing their victims. They deliberately block access of youth victims to help and

psychosocial support, hand sanitizers, legal aid, helplines, and critical Sexual and Reproductive health, SRH services. The World Health Organization, WHO filed that GBV cases in one of the provinces of China the global epicenter of the endemic rose by 300% by February 2020. GBV regrettably exposes young people to physical, emotional, and diverse SRH problems inclusive of unplanned pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Infections, STIs, and other complications. 

The Labor Force Survey by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, ZimStat shows that youth between 12 to 35 years contribute over 1 million to the total number of household  

heads. This is almost 40% of the 2.8 million heads throughout the country. Over 76% of the youth are estimated to be informally employed leaving them highly susceptible to hunger and starvation during the lockdown since their majority survived through the renowned ‘tsaona’ system an extreme version of hand to mouth lifestyle. 

More so, the 24% remainder of youths formally employed are not guaranteed to be spared by the plague as the International Labor Organization, ILO argues that young people are more likely to feel the pinch of Covid-19 economic fallout with a global estimate of over 24 million overall job losses due to the endemic. Youth should, therefore, brace for this rough tide bound to dislodge a significant chunk of their population given that youth (15-24) are 3 times more likely to be unemployed as estimated in the Global Employment Trends for Youth 2020 by ILO.  

Normal access to vital SRHR services was disrupted by Covid-19.           Conventionally,       SRHR services were channeled via platforms attracting large crowds of youth such as colleges, sports, recreational facilities,

organized events, campaigns, and youth centers. However, Covid-19 compelled closure of these facilities as the quest for social distancing was enacted into laws. The supply chains of SRHR products and services have been heavily affected due to the closure of national ports of entry, reduced human resources, and manufacturers’ production constraints. Access to contraception is thwarted as medical staff is diverted to the Corona battlefield. Youth cases of unsafe abortions, unwanted pregnancies, home births, unsafe sex, cyberbullying, and other harmful practices may spike as these continue to unfold.

The United Nations, UN confirms 188 nations enacted nationwide closures, affecting over 1.5 billion youth thus leading to an unprecedented impact on the education of over 87% of youth. Institutions of Higher Learning adopted online classes to minimize the inevitable amendments of their learning calendars necessitated by the endemic. However, this may be detrimental to some given statistics indicate 75% of the African youth have no access to the internet. This elevates the prevalence of drop-outs as witnessed during the Ebola lockdown in heavily disrupted villages of Sierra Leone where school enrolment for young girls declined from 50% to a staggering 30%.  

The aforementioned challenges continue to haunt young people in lockdown from this very minute as they face a bleak future ultimately leaving them traumatized and having some level of anxiety never seen before. The likelihood of suicidal behavior post and during the lockdown increases exponentially as the youth lose their loved ones to the endemic, become survivors of GBV, face the scourge of hunger and starvation, lose their jobs as we enter a global economic recession due to the pandemic and are subjected to

a diverse of challenges stemming from the pandemic.

One can never seem to exhaust the dilemmas Covid-19 bestowed upon the youth, in addition to the above, the spectrum stretches to neglecting of youth living with disabilities and

other marginalized populations, falling into the claws of poverty as the IMF predicts an upsurge in extreme poverty from 84 to 132 million people, young migrants may suffer a heavy toll given 70% of global migrants are below 30 years, 38 million are under 20 years and maybe left behind in the provision of health and social welfare care when national systems’ capacities are overstretched. Xenophobia and racism may be scaled during handing out food parcels. The schematic below was created to condense the effects of the pandemic.

In summation, collective efforts from all stakeholders and individuals are needed to minimize the extent to which the endemic wreaks havoc in the lives of young people. In the same manner, the humankind overcame the Spanish flue, we will triumph against Covid-19.

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